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TV Review: 12 Monkeys – Season 1 Episode 1

By: Darryl Frisbie

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The story opens to a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a plague that has killed seven billion people in the year 2043. James Cole is one of the survivors who reflects on the desperation and compromises one makes in order to survive but then he asks, “What if you could take it back? All of it? A reset switch? You’d hit it right? You’d have to.” Cole is sent back in time to kill a man named, Leland Frost, who is the cause of the plague. There are three things that will make this show worth watching. The first thing is the mysterious origin of the plague that is stemmed from an army called the 12 monkeys. The second thing is James Cole, for some unknown reason, is the only one who’s resilient enough to go back in time with the help of a machine manufactured by an organization called Splinter. We will also see the show tackle with the complexities of time travel and the repercussions that come from it. SyFy has a website that has an entire map of its timeline and clues to the mysterious twelve monkeys.

This show has gotten some flak from hardcore fans who loved the original movie starring Bruce Willis. There is a huge contrast between the two. The film explores the idea that if a man was sent back in time and he told someone he was a time traveler, they would immediately send him to the nearest psychiatric institution. The movie delves deeper into the psychological effects of time travel and the idea of psychosis being a critical factor. The TV series, however, manages to focus on the characters pursuing the origin of the virus. James Cole is played by the excellent Aaron Stanford who you will recognize as Pyro from X-Men United. The scientists at Splinter receive a radio transmission from a doctor, named Cassandra Railly, warning them that Leland Frost is the culprit of the virus. They send Cole back in time and he kidnaps Railly to find out where Leland Frost could be. She does not know and he realizes he was sent back to early. Her watch is a critical variable to the time paradox. He possesses her watch from 2043 and uses it to prove he’s from the future by scratching the watch on her wrist. The watch from the future reacts to the knife and his point is proven. Time runs out for him and he demands that she meets him at the Adams Hotel two years later and then he disappears.

12 Monkeys - Pilot

Cassandra is traumatized by the event, is accused of being a lunatic, and is compelled to end her practice as a doctor. She does not give up though and she waits for Cole at the hotel. He does show up eventually in the year 2015. He is very persistent in finding Leland but he is wounded from the events of 2013. She helps him to heal and they continue their mission. In the past two years she could not find much on Leland but with the help of a friend from the NSA she discovers that his real name is Leland Goines and he works as a bioengineer. Goines is holding a party where they go to meet him. Cole attempts to kill him but is thwarted by security. Cole and Railly are taken into custody by Goines and questioned. Leland tells Cole that he met him back in 1987 but Cole does not remember. We cannot tell if Goines knows more than Cole about the plague but he mentions that the army of the twelve monkeys is involved. Cole is unaware of the twelve. The virus that killed seven billion did not happen by accident but this revealing information has turned their search into a conspiracy theory. They escape when he touches Railly’s watch together with the watch of the future, creating a paradox, which slows time down for Goines and speeds it up for Cole. Cole manages to kill Leland but time does not alter the events of the plague. He goes back to 2043 and discovers the 12 monkeys’ symbol hidden in a newspaper photograph. They cut to 2015 where we see a psychiatric hospital where Goines daughter is a patient and she is told of his death, and rather than be in a state of mourning, she is consumed with etching the symbol of the 12 monkeys. It has a great premise but there is a lot of loose ends that have to be tied off and we’re left to wonder the significance of the twelve monkeys. Will this show be merely suspense or will it go deeper like the movie did? Jennifer Goines is the female counter part to Jeffrey Goines from the movie who is a mental patient played by Brad Pitt. I have a notion that Goines’ daughter may seem insane but she probably carries vital secrets about the 12 monkeys. There is nothing original about time travel or the post-apocalypse but if it can rely on some of the profound ideas of the film then we may have a groundbreaking show.

Overall Grade: 8/10

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